Insider: Everything you need to know for Invitationals Stop 2 at West Point - Major League Fishing Insider: Everything you need to know for Invitationals Stop 2 at West Point
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Stage 1 champion Drew Gill will be a popular Fantasy Fishing pick at West Point Lake. Photo by Jody White. Angler: Drew Gill.
February 29, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Fantasy Fishing

LaGRANGE, Ga. – We in the bass fishing world like to come up with (not so creative) nicknames for the most popular tournament fisheries. For instance, Big Sam (Sam Rayburn), Big O (Lake Okeechobee), Big Larry (St. Lawrence River). 

For this week, at least, here’s a suggestion for West Point Lake: The Big Wildcard.  

Starting Friday, the Alabama-Georgia reservoir will play host to Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Stop 2 Presented by Suzuki. Aside from a Phoenix Bass Fishing League event last March, West Point hasn’t hosted an MLF event since 2013. No surprise, then, that this will mark the first competition on the lake for the vast majority of the 150-angler field — only 13 have ever fished an MLF tournament on the Chattahoochee River impoundment, with just four having done so in more than three events. 

The fact that the venue is such a question mark makes picking your Fantasy Fishing roster all the more challenging. But that’s where we come in. Here’s everything you need to know to put together a winning team. 

How it will go down

These days, when a highland reservoir full of spotted bass pops up on the schedule, it’s hard not to immediately think forward-facing sonar. There’s a good chance bass fishing’s most polarizing technology plays a major role in this one, but it might not be a shoo-in to dominate.

Practice reports indicate the water is running dirty in much of West Point, and with temperatures creeping into the low 60s, bass could be flocking to the banks. Bass Pro Tour angler Joshua Weaver, who lives in nearby Macon, Georgia, predicted that the event will be won shallow, even going so far to say he would “literally have all crankbaits on deck” if he was competing. The one recent tournament data point backs up Weaver’s assertion. David McClung won the BFL on West Point around this time last year using a crankbait and a jig in stained water.  

This feels like an event where anglers will be able to pretty much pick on how they want to fish, whether it be ‘Scoping fish related to bait, targeting offshore cover like brushpiles or running up the river or a creek and power fishing shallow. 

Local knowledge could loom large

Clayton Batts will look to continue his strong start to the 2024 season in his home state. Photo by Cobi Pellerito

Given the lack of experience on West Point among the field, the handful of locals set to compete could have a significant edge. None has a better track record than Bobby Padgett. The Lagrange, Georgia, native has fished 11 MLF events on West Point, racking up one win, three top-five finishes and seven top 15s.  

Rodger Beaver and Charlie Williams have also banked plenty of tournament hours on the fishery. Beaver won a BFL on West Point in 2004 and finished second in 2003. Williams has the most tournament experience on the lake, having fished 15 MLF events with three Top 10s to show for it. 

Others who could have a leg up thanks to their experience include Blake Tomlin. Of the five anglers in the field who fished the 2023 BFL on West Point, Tomlin finished highest, taking third. Clayton Batts lives a little more than an hour from West Point. While he hasn’t logged a Top 10 there in the past, he knows the lake and should be fishing with confidence after a strong start to the season at Sam Rayburn, where he was second after Day 1 and ultimately finished 30th

The big names

Fresh off a win at Santee Cooper, Jacob Wheeler is set to take on West Point. Photo by Garrick Dixon

As usual, a handful of established, top-level anglers are set to hop in this event. Especially in a tournament with so many unknowns, betting on talent could be a winning strategy. 

Jacob Wheeler is the most obvious selection in the field. Is he viewing this event more as a tune up for REDCREST than anything else? Perhaps. Also, it doesn’t matter. He’s too good not to put himself around fish and too competitive not to try to win if he’s in the mix. Never leave Wheeler off a fantasy team. 

Dakota Ebare and Drew Gill are close behind Wheeler on that list. Ebare won on Clarks Hill — a fishery that was also an unknown coming into the event and bears some similarities to West Point — around this time last year. Gill is coming in with momentum after winning Stop 1 on Sam Rayburn, and the myriad species in the lake that could stymie some who try to lean on forward-facing sonar might actually give him an edge, as he’s one of the best at identifying fish species and size on LiveScope. 

Two other anglers that will be difficult to leave off a roster are Mark Daniels Jr. and Keith Poche. Daniels lives about an hour away from the lake in Tuskeegee, Alabama, and he’s talked openly about spending a lot of time during the winter practicing his forward-facing sonar skills on spotted bass. We almost certainly won’t see Poche fishing that way, but on a relatively small fishery that could fish even smaller, the prospect of him finding a couple nooks and crannies that he has to himself is enticing.

Others to consider

Chad Mrazek will look to carry his recent Toyota Series success into West Point. Photo by Charles Waldorf

Flight 1: 

Keith Carson — There are some lunker largemouth in West Point, with the biggest bass caught in past tournaments routinely topping 6 pounds and occasionally surpassing 8. In an event where it seems like 12 pounds will constitute a solid bag, if an angler can catch a couple of those big females during the tournament, it would go a long way. And if one angler is going to do so, Carson seems a solid bet. He’ll likely be patrolling the shallows, looking for the first wave of spawners. 

Flint Davis — While he hasn’t competed on West Point before, Davis lives in Georgia, and he’s been impressive in local events lately, including a BFL win on Lake Sinclair last year. He’s young (21), clearly talented and could be a sneaky selection given some of the other big names in Flight 1. 

Chad Mrazek — The reigning Toyota Series champion continued his hot streak with a third-place finish at last week’s Toyota Series event on Sam Rayburn. The way he won on Table Rock — fishing a jig with forward-facing sonar — could be a major player around West Point’s innumerable brushpiles this week. 

Flight 2: 

Brody Campbell — Campbell is on fire right now. After racking up the second-most Top 10s across all MLF competition last year, he added a runner-up finish at Okeechobee and a 15th place at the Invitationals opener on Sam Rayburn to start 2024. He seems adept at figuring out new lakes without much practice, which most of the field will have to do this week. 

Nick Hatfield — It felt disrespectful to leave Hatfield off the above list of top-level pros to target. He’s fished as well as just about anyone over the past year and shown he can catch ‘em off LiveScope or around the bank. 

Brian Latimer — There are some similarities between West Point and the Savannah River impoundments (Hartwell, Clarks Hill) where Latimer cut his teeth. He feels due for a bounce back after a tough year in 2023 and an 89th-place finish at Sam Rayburn. 

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